Stephen Hough’s Majestic ‘Emperor’ with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

16/03/2018

Beethoven, Ives, Brahms: Stephen Hough (piano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Thierry Fischer (conductor), The Lighthouse, Poole, 14.3.2018. (IL)

Stephen Hough (c) Sim Canetty-Clarke

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat Major ‘Emperor’

Ives – The Unanswered Question

Brahms – Symphony No.1 in C minor

I have been fortunate to review many of Stephen Hough’s recordings over the years, mainly for the Hyperion label. I was greatly looking forward to his appearance playing this well-loved Beethoven concerto, especially on the BSO’s new Steinway grand piano. Hough delivered a poised, majestic performance with every note, every run, every arpeggio cleanly articulated and clear but also with a keen appreciation for the structure as a whole. I noted that he is one of those enlightened soloists who take a keen interest in the surrounding orchestra’s music-making when his contribution is at rest. He invested power and authority in the more explosive passages of the opening movement and nuanced subtlety in the contrasting quieter passages. His rendering of that gorgeous melody of the Adagio un poco mosso slow movement was most affecting. (The BSO woodwind solos through this movement beguiled.) The concluding Rondo rollicked away joyously enjoyed by soloist and orchestra alike, judging from the facial expressions of more than one player. Fischer encouraged a fine-shaded orchestral support that distinguished the whole performance which, to these ears, sounded fresh and vital.

I will admit to a certain difficulty with the music of Charles Ives. I was therefore grateful for Andrew Burn’s erudite programme notes for The Unanswered Question. Ives had described his music as a ‘cosmic landscape’. The unanswered question addresses ‘The Perennial Question of Existence’. I was impressed by Ives’s writing for the strings playing ppp with no change in tempo. This really did give an impression of vast inscrutable cosmic space. The winds’ contribution, a seemingly inconsequential chatter, seems to offer no solution to the eternal questioning, and we are left with the enigmatic ‘a question can be better than an answer’. Now all this, to me, seems to beg a pause afterwards to reflect. Fischer did not allow this, for he immediately and jarringly launched straight into the Brahms Symphony.

Thierry Fischer is a most animated and demonstrative conductor. His reading of the Brahms Symphony No.1, awesome and majestic, a very suitable coupling with the Beethoven Concerto, was consistently satisfying, from the commanding strengths of the outgoing material of the outer movements to the bewitching lyricism of the inner ones, especially the luscious Andante sostenuto. There were just occasional disappointments. And this is where I air a prejudice of mine. One of the highlights of this movement is the powerful writing for the trombones as they iterate the chorale-like melody especially in the coda. They should blaze forth in all their glory. Surprisingly at this point Thierry did not encourage them to really go fff; perhaps their sound was submerged somewhat by the other brass? I always remember how Carlo Maria Giulini, I think it was, once encouraged the trombones to stand up and point their instruments straight out at the audience for maximum effect.

A rewarding concert of well-loved classics and a welcome performance of an intriguing Ives creation.

Ian Lace

For more about the BSO click here.

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 BBC Proms __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Season at the Royal Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018 Cheltenham Music Festival – 30 June to 15 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Staatsoper Unter de Linden in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! St Petersburg Ballet Theatre Bring Swan Lake to London in August __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces its 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Booking Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Additional Tickets Now Available for Nevill Holt Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Four-Day Celebration of Art Song in April 2018 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella in Cinemas on 15 May with Live Q&A __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month